What's The Deal With Those Orgasm "Aftershocks"?

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Most of the time after we finish having sex, my girlfriend and I cuddle in bed. But sometimes, as I lay my head on her shoulder and wrap my arm around her chest, our post-coital cuddle is disturbed when Meredith's whole body shakes with a fresh wave of pleasure. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, her orgasm "aftershocks" come a couple minutes after the main event is done. Sometimes these mini orgasms — at least, we think they're mini orgasms — happen when Meredith remembers a particularly hot moment. But sometimes they happen for no reason at all.
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As much as I'd like to believe that I have magical sex superpowers that create orgasm aftershocks, many other people experience them. Some studies say that about 15% of women have multiple orgasms, some of which feel like one big orgasm with a few smaller aftershocks. But what are they really? According to Holly Richmond, PhD, a somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist (CST), what some people call "aftershocks" are involuntary muscle contractions that happen after an orgasm — just like an orgasm itself is an involuntary contraction of your pelvic floor muscles. The muscle contractions come from the clitoral legs (did you know a clitoris looks like a turkey's wishbone?), so that's why they feel so good — and that's about as much as science has told us.
"What we've studied with aftershocks is: Are they part of the conclusion of the orgasm? Are they the tail end of the orgasm? Or are they themselves a form of multiple orgasm?" Dr. Richmond says. No study has come up with a conclusive answer to those questions, but Dr. Richmond is of the mindset that it doesn't really matter. Whether you consider these extra waves of pleasure as the tail-end of one super long orgasm or a form of multiple orgasms, in the end it doesn't matter. Because no matter what they are, they (probably) feel good.
So Dr. Richmond would rather we focus on how aftershocks feel, rather than what they are. "I love research and I love data, but the downside of that is that people can get too in their heads," she says. Women especially tend to focus too much on what's happening during sex — or if they're doing it "right" — rather than how sex feels. "I'm telling my clients all the time to get out of your head and into your body," Dr. Richmond says. "Thinking too much about exactly what's happening is not keeping us in our bodies."
Moral of the story: It doesn't matter what orgasm "aftershocks" are, as long as they make you feel good.
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